After six decades spent buying up assets spanning retail, media and real estate, one of Britain’s most discreet billionaire clans is weighing a retreat.

The investments by the families of David and Frederick Barclay have put them among the top ranks of the country’s rich and powerful. The twins have forged reputations as stealthy buyers who rarely turn to public markets or investment bankers to finance deals for their closely guarded business empire.

In a surprise twist, the Barclays are now considering offloading some of their most prominent holdings. Those include the Telegraph newspaper titles and Mayfair’s five-star Ritz hotel, where guests dine below chandeliers and can see the sights of the English capital in a custom Rolls-Royce.

The Barclays have hired lawyer Marco Compagnoni of Weil Gotshal & Manges, whom they’ve worked with before, to advise on the review, according to people with knowledge of the decision, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. Compagnoni declined to comment, as did a representative for the Barclays.

The Times of London was first to report the plans, which come as some of their holdings are under pressure.

Over the past two years, the brothers have injected more than 300 million pounds ($386 million) into businesses such as online retailer Shop Direct and delivery service Yodel. Last week, Shop Direct said it was exploring financing options after disclosing it’s seeking 150 million pounds in extra funding to cover a spike in claims tied to Britain’s insurance mis-selling scandal. The shortfall creates a “material uncertainty,” the company’s auditor, Deloitte, said Monday.

The Telegraph group could attract a number of bidders. Although no formal process has started, Daily Mail & General Trust Plc could be interested, according to a person familiar with its intentions, as declining newspapers merge to maximize their audience while minimizing operational costs. A representative for DMGT declined to comment.

The Barclays may struggle to recoup the 665 million pounds they spent to buy the paper in 2004. Circulation and earnings have plummeted, there have been repeated rounds of job cuts and operating profit was just 700,000 pounds for the most recent financial year. Still, the paper remains influential in the U.K. It’s been a leading voice for Brexit and employed Boris Johnson as a columnist until he became Prime Minister in July.

With Middle Eastern money backing most of London’s luxury hotels these days, the brothers may look farther afield to sell the Ritz. Four years ago, they sold their stake in three other London hotels -- Claridges, the Berkeley and the Connaught -- to Qatari investors.

It’s already been a busy year for the Barclays, who turned 85 on Sunday. David lost a libel case he filed against a little-known French playwright who satirized the lives of him and his brother in July, and his lawyer said at the time that he would probably appeal. This month, it emerged that Frederick is embroiled in a divorce court row with his estranged wife. A judge who oversaw the preliminary hearing placed limits on what can be reported, but the case may eventually shed light on the Barclay family’s finances if it reaches a public decision.

First « 1 2 3 » Next